Royal Mail workers are to launch a fresh wave of strikes throughout December in a round of industrial action set to cause misery for millions of households posting gifts in the run up to Christmas.
The walkouts have been organised by the Communication Workers’ Union amid a row with the company over pay and working conditions.
What dates are the Royal Mail strikes?
The CWU is planning 10 days of strike action, meaning its 115,000 members will stage a walkout on the following dates:
Thursday November 24 Friday November 25
Wednesday November 30
Thursday December 1
Friday December 9
Sunday December 11
Wednesday December 14
Thursday December 15
Friday December 23
Will the postal strikes affect Christmas deliveries?
Yes. In particular, strikes taking place on December 23 and Christmas Eve threaten to cause particular havoc for late packages making their way to millions of households.
During the last national strikes in August, the CWU’s large representation among staff meant that almost all of the postal network was left crippled, with only the most essential services and special deliveries still continuing.
What is the last date to send Christmas cards and parcels via Royal Mail?
Royal Mail is urging customers to “allow plenty of time” for posting items this year.
If you want cards and presents to arrive by Christmas Day, you should post 2nd class items at the latest by December 19, while 1st class should be sent no later than December 21.
Special deliveries and tracked guaranteed items should be sent by December 22. Special deliveries with the company’s “Saturday guarantee” can be sent on December 23.
Why are Royal Mail workers taking industrial action?
The dispute between the postal service and the CWU, which represents more than 100,000 of Royal Mail’s 140,000 workers, centres on pay and conditions.
In the wake of galloping inflation, the CWU argues that the company’s postal workers deserve a pay rise to match price increases. UK inflation topped 11pc last month, a 41-year high.
They are also angry about changes to working conditions that Royal Mail bosses want to make, including a seven-day-a-week parcel service, reducing letter deliveries to five days, increased automation of parcel and letter sorting and later finishing times, to allow more next day deliveries.
Royal Mail says the company is losing £1m a day and that without radical changes the business has no future. Bosses have threatened layoffs and a potential breakup of the business if striking workers cannot be brought to heel.
What if I am sending post internationally?
Then you should allow even more time. Royal Mail says mail to family and friends serving in the Armed Forces should be sent no later than December 2.
For others using international economy post, you have missed the deadlines for sending to the Far and Middle East, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, Canada and the US by standard mail.
However, the deadline for Cyprus, Eastern Europe, Greece, Iceland, Malta, Turkey is November 25, while for western Europe you should send items by November 28.
Those using international standard or international tracking and signature services are too late for post destined for the British Virgin Islands, Dominica and Anguilla.
But for everywhere else, you still have time. The deadline for Australia and New Zealand is December 1, while for mainland China it is December 2, for the Caribbean it is December 5, for Africa, the Middle East and Asia it is December 7, for Cyprus and Malta it is December 8, and for eastern Europe and Turkey it is December 10.
For Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the US it is December 10, while for western Europe it is December 12 and, finally, for Belgium, France and Luxembourg it is December 14.
Rail passengers' travel plans will also be hit in the run-up to Christmas by planned train strikes.